What Does Penetration at All Levels Actually Mean

This morning Cheryl wrote about a newly reported on email about another conservative activist attempting to set up a meeting between the President, when he was a candidate, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to The NY Times reporting, the email’s author, Paul Erickson, specifically recommended establishing an early “first” contact at the NRA’s annual meeting.

I just wanted to take a little time and explain why this is part of the penetration at all levels portion of the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign that we’ve been tracking since June 2016 and what I mean by the term penetration at all levels.

Working in reverse order, penetration at all levels refers to establishing connections and building a network through a wide variety of elites, notables, organizations, and institutions across as many societal sectors as possible. By doing so one has the ability to both influence and leverage the political, social, economic, religious, educational, entertainment, and military realms. Not all of this is nefarious. Not all of it is done to be detrimental to the US. And the US, as well as American organizations, do this in other countries too. A lot of it is not nefarious or intended to be, but some, like what we’ve been observing of the Russian active measures campaign against the US, definitely are.

Until Putin’s active measures campaign against the US, the EU, and NATO became clear, perhaps the best example of penetration at all levels in the US was by the Israelis. The Israelis are able to leverage both the Jewish American and Christian (specifically the evangelical Christian Zionists) religious communities, politicians from both political parties, the entertainment industry, other business sectors, think tanks, and the military (there is a US Army Military Education Level 1 Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy aka WINEP aka The Washington Institute). This isn’t intended as a screed about Israelis, rather it is simply a quick recounting of how the Israeli government pursues its interests in the US. What Putin and his proxies have done is similar, though nowhere near as thoroughly as the Israelis. That we know of…

In the Russian case a lot of the penetration that is being reported on and made public appears to have been focused solely on more politically, socially, economically, and religiously conservative sectors, groups, and organizations in the US. The Daily Beast first reported on Russia’s connections to the NRA back in February 2017. This was the first of three articles that delineated the creation of a Russian firearms sporting organization partially led by Marina Butina. Specifically:

Two of Butina’s friendships in particular have raised eyebrows. She started a business with Paul Erickson, a decades-long Republican Party activist. And she served as a special assistant to the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator belonging to Vladimir Putin’s political party with alleged ties to the Russian mob world.

 As chilled vodka flowed through an ice sculpture—a bottle imprinted with the Soviet hammer and sickle—she took some time to brag. She brazenly claimed that she had been part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia, two individuals who were present said. On other occasions, in one of her graduate classes, she repeated this claim.

Erickson and Butina have been seen in public frequently, at the invitation-only Freedom Ball after Trump’s inauguration; and holding court at Russia House, a Russian-themed bar in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle. At one such gathering in the fall of 2016 Erickson bragged that he was advising the Trump transition team, according to two sources who were present; he is also said to have told a story about introducing Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, to former NRA president David Keene. (Kalashnikov allegedly inspired the creation of “The Right to Bear Arms,” Butina’s gun rights group.)

The two appear to have gotten close: Erickson formed a limited liability corporation with Butina in February 2016, according to the South Dakota secretary of state. It is unclear what this organization, Bridges, LLC, actually does. (Despite living in Washington, D.C., Butina has a cellphone number with a South Dakota area code.)

In The Daily Beast‘s second report, Tim Mak expands on his reporting from February 2017 by digging into the meeting between members of the NRA and Dmitry Rogozin, one of Putin’s hard line deputies and the head of the Russian Shooting Federation, which would make him either Butina’s partner or boss. The Daily Beast‘s third article on this topic delves even deeper to who was at the meeting with Rogozin. Specifically former Milwaukee County Sheriff, Fox News analyst, extremist anti-US government Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer Association Sheriff of the Year, campaign proxy and Republican National Convention prime time speaker, and withdrawn nominee for political appointment at the Department of Homeland Security David Clarke. And former NRA President and current board member David Keene.

Here’s Rogozin’s tweet about the event. You’ll notice Clarke’s in the second photo. Keene is in the first standing next to Rogozin.

Putin, via his proxies, hasn’t just established connections to the NRA and through NRA officials like Clarke to anti-US government groups like the pro-militia and pro-Bundy Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. They’ve also worked very hard to establish connections to conservative Christian groups in the US.

Growing up in the 1980s, Brian Brown was taught to think of the communist Soviet Union as a dark and evil place.

But Brown, a leading opponent of same-sex marriage, said that in the past few years he has started meeting Russians at conferences on family issues and finding many kindred spirits.

Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, has visited Moscow four times in four years, including a 2013 trip during which he testified before the Duma as Russia adopted a series of anti-gay laws.

“What I realized was that there was a great change happening in the former Soviet Union,” he said. “There was a real push to re-instill Christian values in the public square.”

On issues including gun rights, terrorism and same-sex marriage, many leading advocates on the right who grew frustrated with their country’s leftward tilt under President Barack Obama have forged ties with well-connected Russians and come to see that country’s authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin, as a potential ally.

The attitude adjustment among many conservative activists helps explain one of the most curious aspects of the 2016 presidential race: a softening among many conservatives of their historically hard-line views of Russia. To the alarm of some in the GOP’s national security establishment, support in the party base for then-candidate Donald Trump did not wane even after he rejected the tough tone of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who called Russia America’s No. 1 foe, and repeatedly praised Putin.

Why here’s Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley at the National Prayer Breakfast. This picture was originally posted to his Instagram account:

Makarov is a member of the United Russia Party and is the head of the Duma’s Budget Committee. Why, exactly, is Russia sending a sixteen member delegation of senior officials to the US National Prayer Breakfast, an event largely promoted and attended by elected, appointed, and otherwise well connected American social and religious conservatives? Penetration at all levels in pursuit of influence. It is also important to remember that the National Prayer Breakfast is the premier annual event of The Family, the secretive, ultra-Christian conservative and neo-fascist organization that runs a boarding house for Christian conservative members of Congress.

Vice President Pence gave a keynote address at Franklin Graham’s summit on religious violence against Christians. He also met with Russian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Alfeyev. Alfeyev runs the Russian Orthodox Church’s external relations department.

Even the sponsor of the President’s foreign policy address in April 2016, The Center for the National Interest, appears to have ties to Russia.

That Trump would choose the Center for the National Interest as the place to premier his new seriousness on foreign policy has Manafort’s fingerprints all over it. For Manafort and the Center have something very important in common: both have ties to the Russian regime of President Vladimir Putin, (whose ambassador to the United States sat in the front row for Trump’s address).

As for the Center, both it and its journal, the National Interest, are two of the most Kremlin-sympathetic institutions in the nation’s capital, even more so that the Carnegie Moscow Center, which has evolved from a hub of Russian liberalism into an accomodationist, intellectually-compromised think tank.

Center director Dmitri Simes worked as an aide to Nixon and for decades has used his connections to the Kremlin — real or perceived — to cultivate a reputation in Washington as one of the few Russia hands who intimately knows that country’s politics. For years, the Center for the National Interest partnered with the Russian government-funded Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a New York-based institution whose head, Adranik Migranyan, was personally appointed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to a State Department cable released by Wikileaks. In May 2014, the two think tanks held a press conference defending Russia’s position in Ukraine.

Another association connecting Trump to the Center is Richard Burt, chairman of the National Interest’s advisory council, and a former ambassador to Germany and State Department official during the Reagan administration. According to a knowledgeable source, Burt, who had previously worked as an unpaid advisor to former Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, has been enlisted by Manafort to join Trump’s campaign and helped draft his speech (neither Burt nor Manafort responded to inquiries). Burt sits on the senior advisory board of the Russian Alfa Bank.

Burt is the lobbyist and former diplomat who contradicted AG Sessions testimony that he hadn’t been at dinners hosted by the AG when he was a senator. He also helped to draft the President’s April 2016 speech on foreign policy, while he was lobbying on behalf of Russia.

It is important to note that the editor of The Center for the National Interest’s publication, The National Interest, has publicly disputed Politico‘s reporting in Politico. His refutation in Politico was also one of the items used to impeach AG Sessions memory over one of his meetings with Ambassador Kislyak:

Speaking for myself, after briefly meeting Trump at a reception in the Senate Room of the Mayflower, where a number of politicians and Trump advisers, such as Senator Jeff Sessions and ambassadors, congregated before the event, I can’t claim any kind of conversion experience.

The reason for all of this outreach, networking, and connection making is to both allow for influence operations to proceed and to facilitate contacts and create opportunities for even more leverage and influence. The reason the NRA annual meeting was proposed for a meeting is that Rogozin was already scheduled to be there under cover of his Russian shooting sports organization. And because most media outlets aren’t going to cover the event. And those that do, which tend to focus on the firearms industry or shooting sports, aren’t going to be paying a lot of attention to Rogozin and his organization other than to note how great it is that Russians are looking to the US in pursuing the natural and civil rights to self defense.

And the reason these Russian contacts want meetings and want to take selfies is it gives them access, influence, and leverage. Do I actually think that Senator Grassley is compromised because he was seated with Member of Duma Makarov? No. But that selfie can be used to provide the impression that maybe he can’t be trusted, beyond just simple partisanship and his noted cantankerousness, to run an objective, above board Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Do I think Clarke or the other NRA board members that went to Russia to meet with Rogozin are compromised by the Russians? Doubtful, but hopefully they didn’t do anything strange in their hotel rooms because I’m sure they were under a variety of electronic and signals intelligence throughout their trip.

This is penetration at all levels. Though in this case it is selective, for the time being, on the center right to right in American political, religious, economic, and social spheres. It is intended to provide access, influence, and leverage. Combined with the other portions of the Russian active measures, specifically the cyber warfare campaign, it has been very effective while it has also been very clumsy. Only time will tell just how effective and how much actual damage it has done.

136 replies
  1. 1
    Adam L Silverman says:

    I’ve got to go run a few errands. I’ll be back in an hour/hour and a half to answer whatever questions may arise. Have fun!

  2. 2
    Tilda Swintons Bald Cap says:

    JFC they’ve taken over everything.

  3. 3
    Ithink says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I speak for all of us when I say: I don’t BELIEVE this s***!

  4. 4
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Tilda Swintons Bald Cap: Nope, we still have the Girls Scouts as our last uniformed line of defense. This is why I always buy cookies, to make sure that our true reserve force is well funded!

  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ithink: I’ve definitely tied my shoes and am getting ready to go run my errands. I suppose I can scan the receipts in when I get back and post them if that would help.

  6. 6
    rikyrah says:

    You have been consistent about your insistence about the penetration.

  7. 7
    rikyrah says:

    And , by the way, I want them ALL!!!

    Indictments and the perp walk

  8. 8
    Some Guy says:

    So the Russian kleptocrats are following the apartheid regimes methods and tsctics? Given how successful the apartheid regime has been that reality is depressing.

  9. 9
    Roger Moore says:

    Do I think Clarke or the other NRA board members that went to Russia to meet with Rogozin are compromised by the Russians? Doubtful,

    I’m less sanguine about that than you are. There has been talk today that the NRA massively increased its political spending in 2016, and that Russia may have been the source of some of that extra money.

  10. 10

    Adam, thanks for this. You’ve included the WaPo piece that came out after I posted this morning, which is complementary to the Times piece I linked. Looks like the two were running down similar leads, but the Times published first, so the WaPo decided to get theirs out fast.

    A couple of things.

    Richard Burt is a mystery to me in all this. He was chief negotiator on the START I treaty in 1989-1991, then went into private consulting, got a gig pushing Russian pipelines to Europe, and became president of Global Zero, an organization to abolish nuclear weapons. I have interacted with Global Zero since they started in 2008. I have some big disagreements with them, which I won’t go into just now. The organization has been in flux and just now has had a major reorganization.

    He has been very quiet in the Trump entourage, but he has been there since early on. I know because his name caught my eye as someone I wouldn’t have thought would have signed on with Trump. For a while, he said that he just wrote some speeches for Trump for pay and didn’t really support him, but he seems to be surfacing again with more current support.

    I know it’s easy to say Russian pipelines, Russian pipelines, and he’s been out of the State Department for some time now. I regard his involvement here as an ongoing mystery.

    Also: Penetration at all levels.

    Good grief. I know this is the official term, but it’s getting harder and harder (yes I know) to deal with this kind of terminology. I’ll just link again to Carol Cohn, who pointed this out some time ago.

  11. 11
    Mike in NC says:

    Mueller needs to hang all the traitors out to twist slowly in the wind.

  12. 12
    piratedan says:

    well, it makes sense, who have the GOP turned to and acknowledged as their base… evangelicals and the NRA. I guess that multi-millionaires of an international stripe would include a few Russian oligarchs too.

    They took the old KGB playbook and applied it capitalistically since recruiting those “disenfranchised” was easier than courting the big tent Dems, although as a fall back, it looks as though they hedged their bets by getting Jill Stein and the Greenies on board.

    curious to see how deep these threads into ownership into our media go….

  13. 13
    Shantanu Saha says:

    I think a large part of the looney left has also been penetrated. The Green Party seems to have been captured by the Kremlin. A lot of Berners as well.

  14. 14
    Yutsano says:

    What’s amazing to me is Putin/Russia pretty much did all of this on the cheap. While the salaries of some enterprising Moldovans went up, that wasn’t a huge expenditure of rubles. If I were spitballing this I’d guess it cost them at most 50 million rubles. To take over a major foreign adversary, that’s pocket change.

  15. 15
    Yarrow says:

    Thanks, Adam. We’re going to be shocked at how many people are caught up in this. Every facet of American society will have some element o penetration. I’m wondering about some of the big name evangelicals. Franklin Graham, Ralph Reed, people like that.

  16. 16
    jharp says:

    Republicans would vote for Hitler if he had an (R) beside his name.

    And I truly believe this.

  17. 17
    jharp says:


    I’m waiting for the right wing radio personalities to get busted.

    Clearly they’ve been in on it from the start.

  18. 18
    HeleninEire says:

    I love, love, love this place. It was my place for sanity and fun and news before I left America. Now BJ and Wonkette are the only two places from where I get my American news (except for my mega liberal dad texting me and sending me links; goddess bless him).

    BUT. Balloon Juice needs a traffic cop. If only an hour between posts.

    Rant?? ended.

  19. 19
    Thoughtful David says:

    I think it does mean that Grassley–and McConnell and Ryan and …–are compromised. I’ve said this before: The Russians can now turn to any one of those guys and say, “do what we want or we’ll leak info about what was said at all of these meetings with your new Russian ‘friends'”. The information leaked doesn’t even have to be true, just plausible, because we now know there were so many Russian connections that they’ll appear to be true.
    And which Grassley or McConnell or Ryan do you think would say back, “oh yeah? Go ahead and leak it. I’m clean as the driven snow. I ain’t doin’ what you say. ” Right, that would be none of them, because they’re all as clean as the Moscow snow in April.

  20. 20
    tracy ratclif says:

    @jharp: I recently read an email from a Trumpista on an old-photos mailing list.
    1. The US was allied with Greece during WWII
    2. The government of Greece in WWII was fascist.
    3. Therefore, WWII was not about fighting fascism, just like the American Civil War was not about slavery.

  21. 21
    Death Panel Truck says:

    Might want to familiarize yourself with the words “Read more >”

  22. 22
    Ruckus says:

    @Thoughtful David:
    They all look like those snowbanks in plowed parking lots after 4 months of winter. Large mounds of very nasty, dirty no longer white snow, that will sit there taking up space for a few weeks after winter before they fully melt and leave piles of crap to remind us they were there.

  23. 23
    Thoughtful David says:

    @Ruckus: Perzackly.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Shantanu Saha:

    Given Jill Stein’s ties to Russia, this seems pretty obvious.

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    The most obvious way would be by buttering Burt up and telling him that Russia wants to eliminate their nukes but it’s impossible to do it when the US is being intransigent. People with a single-minded obsession are quite prone to being turned as long as the people turning them only talk about sharing their goal.

  25. 25
    Jacel says:

    So who is boarding with The Family in DC currently? Is that group still an influence, or are the Russians outbidding them?

  26. 26
    Mr Pigg says:

    Really interesting.

    Over the past year or so, I noticed my hard right fundamentalist cousin was posting a lot of obvious pro-Russian and pro-Syrian propaganda to Facebook and I was wondering how on earth he got mixed up with that stuff.

  27. 27

    Ah, I see that the WaPo article is from April. It’s being retweeted because of the Times article One of the confusing things about this story is that bits and pieces are reported, and then reported again as they fit into a larger picture. There are so many Russian connections that that won’t change any time soon.

  28. 28

    @Mnemosyne: That’s a possibility. I would think Burt is smarter than that, but you never know.

  29. 29
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    I feel ashamed to admit in 2012 I thought Romney’s claim that Russia was our #1 enemy was ridiculous and made Romney look like a cold war relic. Now I know better.

  30. 30
    msdc says:

    In the Russian case a lot of the penetration that is being reported on and made public appears to have been focused solely on more politically, socially, economically, and religiously conservative sectors, groups, and organizations in the US.

    I think the key words here are “that is being reported on.” I don’t doubt that Russia has penetrated left-wing circles as well; hell, some of it is hiding in plain sight.

  31. 31
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Death Panel Truck:

    Might want to familiarize yourself with the words “Read more >”

    Are you a fan of clickbait-style posts?
    (I am not, particularly when a page reload is needed to get back to the main page, unless open in new tab is done, and I don’t always need more tabs. (312 open at the moment just in firefox according to sessionstore.js, pushing the limits of firefox.)

  32. 32
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @tracy ratclif:
    Eh, Greece under Metaxas was more authoritarian than fascist. Metaxas admired Mussolini but that ended after Italy declared war on Greece.

    Your friend’s argument is simultaneously scary and stupid at the same time. The larger picture was democracy vs fascism. The fascist “bloc” was the aggressor.

  33. 33
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    Jill Stein, like Greenwald, is so anti-US that she has convinced herself that any enemy of the United States must be a poor underdog being brutalized by the evil Americans.

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @jharp: They would vote for Satan if there was an (R) after his name.

  35. 35
    fuckwit says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: It’s been well known since the great philosopher George Carlin pointed out in the 1960s that was why the US didn’t want to “pull out” of Vietnam. Wouldn’t be manly, he said.

    The apocryphal story is that when asked why we were still in Vietnam, Johnson (ha) took out his dick, set it on the table, and said “THIS is why!”

    I for one am tired of all this dick-waving bullshit, and welcome our new female overlords.

  36. 36
    msdc says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷: I know we’re supposed to never attribute to malice what we can chalk up to incompetence, but when it comes to Stein, etc. I’m willing to believe that it can be both at once.

  37. 37
    B.B.A. says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷: The Soviets weren’t democratic. In practice the Kuomintang weren’t either.

  38. 38
    MomSense says:


    Every last one of the TRAITORS.

  39. 39
    HeleninEire says:

    In a pub. The song is This land is you land this land is my land but the singer is singing about Ireland.

    Rut Roh. He’s stealing from Woody Guthrie. Kinda mad.

  40. 40
    germy says:

    He’s broken his silence!

    Again, the obvious intended beneficiary of the Kushner-directed calls made by Flynn to Russia (and every other UN Security Council member) was Israel, not Russia. And, at least in this case, Kushner was "colluding" with Netanyahu, not Putin: https://t.co/RwGrtZMsZT— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 3, 2017

  41. 41
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    No. But they were the lesser evils at the time. We were allies with them primarily because we shared common enemies. I guess I should have said anti-fascism vs fascism, broadly speaking.

  42. 42
    Shantanu Saha says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: they would vote for the heat death of the universe if it had (R) after its name.

  43. 43
    germy says:

    The "collusion" shown by the Flynn indictment is with . . . Israel, the intended beneficiary of Kushner/Flynn's calls to Russia (and the other UN Security Council members). But like Israeli meddling in US politics, this doesn't interest many people. https://t.co/Hpb5gjV2D1— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 3, 2017

  44. 44
    Jeffro says:

    I remember reading “The Family” and feeling chills up my spine for days…

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I’ve always heard that the most dangerous thing to think when you’re being targeted by a con is that you’re smarter than the con artist. I suspect that spycraft is the same way. The only way to win is not to play.

  46. 46
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    He’s just happy he can use this to divert attention away from Russia. Won’t work, because there’s more to this than just Flynn and Kushner as Adam has shown above. Penetration at all levels.

  47. 47
    Raoul says:

    @msdc: Yes. From what folks like Adam have been saying, she seems a perfect sort of target for Russian cooptation as an asset. Vain, stupid, angry. Thus easily worked into the fold by Russian agents.

  48. 48
    MomSense says:


    I have a suspicion that there are more Flynn indictments that are sealed.

  49. 49
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @jharp: Trump supports Neo Nazis, has authoritarian tendencies and has been supported by Christian Rightwingers. I think it’s safe to say that Republicans have already supported a Hitler-lite when they voted in Trump. They may also vote in a child molester in Alabama so there’s that.

  50. 50
    RandomMonster says:

    If the last year has done anything for me, it’s made me feel penetrated at all levels.

  51. 51
    msdc says:

    @germy: Speaking of malicious incompetence…

    (Got to love the sneer quotes around “colluding.”)

  52. 52
    Roger Moore says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷:

    Jill Stein, like Greenwald, is so anti-US that she has convinced herself that any enemy of the United States must be a poor underdog being brutalized by the evil Americans.

    I think you’re being too kind to both of them. That may have been their original motivation, but they’re both obviously in over their heads with Russia specifically.

  53. 53
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Roger Moore: This is a key question. The NRA proudly boasts that the bulk of its funding is membership driven. And the bulk of that is from lifetime members. However, the member numbers they release, which is always the top line, seems to have remained completely stable around 4 million for well over a decade. A lot of these lifetime members are either very, very old or dead. Some of their money comes from the Shooting Sports Foundation, which is the actual industry lobby, among its other roles, provides another significant chunk. Given that Torshin, who is high up in Russian organized crime in addition to being an oligarch and close to Putin, is involved, I would not be surprised to find out that the Russians have been using the NRA as a laundry and in so doing have also used it as the organizational equivalent of a useful idiot.

  54. 54
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @germy: Love how he puts “colluding” in quotation marks as if it’s not obvious. He’s still protecting Putin/Russia and still shilling for Trump. Nice to see.

  55. 55
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I reckoned you new more about Burt and appreciate you sharing. There is just far too many Russian connections for any of this to be sheer chance.

  56. 56
    Hunter Gathers says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I would not be surprised to find out that the Russians have been using the NRA as a laundry and in so doing have also used it as the organizational equivalent of a useful idiot.

    Useful idiot would be the most apt description for every NRA member I’ve ever encountered.

  57. 57
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Shantanu Saha: @Mnemosyne: @msdc: I think Stein is a useful idiot. What she may or may not be beyond that, I don’t know. But this isn’t knew. For all that he’s a civil rights icon, and now an accused sexual harasser/assaulter, Congressman Conyers was pretty tight with Kremlin backed groups during the Soviet days. The Soviet Union then, and Putin now, doesn’t ever just cultivate one side.

  58. 58
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Yarrow: The professional Christians in the Evangelical movement are in tight with the Russian Orthodox Church.

  59. 59
    Chris T. says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Not that this is necessarily any better imagery, but when I read the phrase “penetration at all levels”, what comes to my mind is some kind of parasitic critter worming its way into bodies, or laying eggs that will hatch and eat the brain, or some such.

  60. 60
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @HeleninEire: I started this an hour or so before I hit published. At that time there was no one drafting anything and nothing set to post. It just takes a while to do a deep dive even when you know the subject matter.

  61. 61
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Thoughtful David: My understanding is that Russian money moved through the PAC/Super PAC controlled by McConnell. We’ll have to wait and see what, if anything, comes from that in terms of the Special Counsel’s investigation.

  62. 62
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Death Panel Truck: Thanks for the kind words and the congrats!

  63. 63
    Roger Moore says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    I’m deeply suspicious of counting the NRA as a useful idiot; I’m far more inclined to put them in the fellow traveler/knowing tool category. The Republicans and their various subsidiaries like the NRA have made a corrupt bargain with Russia: they’ll sell out our foreign policy in exchange for help with their domestic enemies, i.e. the Democratic coalition. The ones who have been taking Russian money know that’s the deal.

  64. 64
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jacel: I think Jeff Sharlett is still tracking this stuff. So you may want to check his most recent reporting.

  65. 65
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Thoughtful David: The entire GOP acts as if it is compromised. They way they’ve rallied around Trump says it all. He engages in the most egregious, outrageous and you can’t get McConnell or Ryan to say peep. They keep soldiering on as if their President is normal. I’m surprised that the Democrats haven’t been more aggressive in calling out Republicans for the acquiescence in all of Trump’s messiness. Can you imagine if the shoe was on the other foot?

  66. 66
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Yep. The NRA connection via Erickson and Bustina and Torshin and Rogozin has been known for months. What wasn’t known was that their was an email trail within the campaign that provided further context and more information.

  67. 67
    Hunter Gathers says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Flattery is the easiest way to con someone. I imagine that’s all they had to do get Conyers. Speaking for myself, whenever flattery is directed at me, my first thought ‘OK, what the fuck do you want?’. Then again, I’m a bit of a misanthrope.

  68. 68

    Where does Snowden fit into this picture. And who else in the military is compromised. It can’t be just Flynn.

  69. 69
    Baud says:

    @germy: That’s nonsensical on its own terms. Who you are colluding with and who the intended beneficiary of the collusion is are separate questions, and the answers are not mutually exclusive.

    I feel a little sorry for those who put their trust in him.

  70. 70
    debbie says:

    Joe McCarthy is really regretting he didn’t live a lot longer.

  71. 71
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @germy: For a guy that makes such a big deal out of his law degree and his experience in the courtroom, his real life use of that education and experience is routinely awful. What LTG Flynn agreed to plead to in exchange for full cooperation really didn’t matter. Mueller could have picked any of a dozen or more charges and used that one instead. What Flynn actually pled/pleaded (plode? plad? pleded?) to didn’t really matter as it is simply part of the deal for his cooperation. Moreover, what he did plead to is interesting when considered along with the charges brought against Manafort and Dearborn. Mueller has certainly decided that he’s going to use the financial aspects of this to break the corrupt foreign lobbying that goes on in DC and everyone just winks and nods at.

  72. 72
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jeffro: I don’t know why Steven King hasn’t let them turn it into a horror movie yet. Or at least a four night miniseries on SyFy.//

  73. 73
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Hunter Gathers: I have been thinking about getting certified as a firearms instructor for professional reasons. That pretty much means I have to go through the NRA. And therefore join the NRA. Hence my not moving on it very quickly.

  74. 74
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Roger Moore: Since they won’t open either their membership rolls up or their books for audit, and they really don’t have to given how they’re organized, there is no way to really know where along the continuum they fall.

  75. 75
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Hunter Gathers: You have the nicest comments. Did you know that?//

  76. 76
    Gator90 says:


    stealing from Woody Guthrie

    That’s all right. Dylan did it a bunch of times.

  77. 77
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @schrodingers_cat: It can be just Flynn at the top level. There are other folks that have issues, such as all the Navy folks caught up in the Fat Leonard scandal. But Flynn seems, so far and fortunately, to be somewhat unique and a one off.

    Snowden was a Russian intel op from start to finish. Intended to transform the conversation within the US about the roles of our intelligence agencies and what they do from what they are, what they have to do, and how to we establish appropriate safeguards to protect civil liberties to “OH MY FUCKING GOD! THEY’RE SPYING ON ME IN THE SHOWER THROUGH MY BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS! THEY KNOW I CAN’T SING IN KEY WHEN I’VE GOT CONDITIONER IN MY HAIR!!!!!!” The other part of the op was to legitimize Wikileaks as the information laundromat.

  78. 78
    trollhattan says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    It occurred to me when reading about the orthodox protests of the film “Matilda” they sounded very much like something that would happen here. Didn’t ponder the possibility of formal links to our fundys, though.

  79. 79
    trollhattan says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Five Quatloos awarded!

  80. 80
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @trollhattan: Formal and informal. There has been a concerted effort to create them. There’s other stuff too that I left out. Like Russian intelligence using systema, the Russian martial arts system that developed out of hand to hand combatives training for Spetznaz personnel, to recruit. And the creation of a motorcycle club in south Florida modeled on the violent, pro-Putin clubs in Russia and other parts of eastern Europe.

  81. 81
    B.B.A. says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I thought Snowden didn’t go through Wikileaks, but directly to Greenwald.

  82. 82
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @trollhattan: Had to be done. He pitched that belt high over the fat part of the plate!

  83. 83
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @B.B.A.: And GG leveraged Wikileaks in the dissemination. Not just The Guardian and the NY Times and WaPo. But Snowden also reinforced that having something like Wikileaks was important.

  84. 84
    gene108 says:

    What has me aggravated is that Russia is directly trying to influence Republicans. And if the rolls had been reversed, there would be a Defcon 1 level of panic and innuendo about Democrats selling their country out to the Russians.

    But so far, the Republicans are escaping the guilt by association, I think the deserve.

    Because we need to ask, why are the Russians targeting Republicans for favorable treatment, as well as probably hacking for Republican Congressional candidates?

    Why do Russians think Republican rule will be good for Russian?

    We should be able to answer these questions or at least have them looked at.

  85. 85
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @gene108: Because they’ve seen what has happened to the GOP since 2009. That it has become the party of white, conservative Christian, anti-immigrant Americans.This aligns with what Putin wants.

  86. 86
    Millard Filmore says:


    Republicans would vote for Hitler if he had an (R) beside his name. And I truly believe this.

    The mother of one of my son’s friends, as he went through grade school, thinks Obama was worse than Hitler. I’m guessing because of abortion.

  87. 87
    Kathleen says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I also think op was aimed at weakening and undermining Obama and US foreign policy. Snowden is a real obnoxious, cold amoral libertarian who loves racist Ron Paul.

  88. 88
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    In the Soviet days, they would at least pay lip service to women’s rights and racial equality, which would attract people like Conyers. One of the reasons Bayard Rustin had to be kept behind the scenes during the Civil Rights Movement was that he had been an active member of the Communist Party before WWII for the very practical reason that, in those days, it was the only American political party that called for desegregation and civil rights.

    Now that Russia is spouting right-wing-friendly anti-gay and pro-gun positions, plus touting conservative Orthodox religion and bashing Muslims in Chechnya, I doubt you will find many modern Democratic politicians who have been suborned. There will be some, but not many. You’ll mostly find them on the left fringes that refuse to identify with the “corporate” Democrats and elide the history of communism with what Putin is doing today.

  89. 89
    Millard Filmore says:


    Now BJ and Wonkette are the only two places from where I get my American news

    Hi Helen, you should also give https://www.democraticunderground.com/ a whirl. The comments are not as good as here and Wonkette, but it updates frequently with enough tl;dr on the front page to go digging for more info. I often see news there before it gets picked up and discussed here.

  90. 90
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    There’s an all-Canadian version, too. And likely many other countries as well.

    I think it’s a great compliment to Woody. The song has universal appeal and speaks to the best kind of patriotism.

  91. 91
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I also think Putin wants to see an America racked in chaos, Putin is Russia first. He doesn’t give a shit about all those Alt-Right morons or the Buy-Bull thumpers. Whatever tears America down to the bone structurally; Putin is in for it.

  92. 92
    B.B.A. says:

    @Mnemosyne: Along those lines: I remember when RT had an ad campaign about how the American media bought all of Bush’s lies about Iraq, and we need an alternative source. Which in turn brings to mind how Putin was down there with Chirac in the Fox “axis of weasels.”

    Not that Russia being against the Iraq War made it right, but…you really have to wonder who among the Dems they approached.

  93. 93
    Adam L Silverman says:

    More from Torshin:

  94. 94
    Adam L Silverman says:

    This kid has a mind like a steel trap!

  95. 95
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @gene108: If there was credible evidence that Democrats had colluded with a foreign country (even a friendly one) to win an election, Republicans would have shut the government down. Democrats need to be a lot more aggressive about calling out Republicans and demanding that no legislation should be passed while Trump is under investigation. Feels too much like business as usual when we have a Mad Man in the White House and Russian puppets running federal agenices.

  96. 96
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Saban’s funding to enter the US entertainment industry (cartoons, Power Rangers, etc) was put up by the Israeli government/intel community. He was part of their penetration efforts and is one of their operatives. So this is significant, despite him publicly backing Clinton last year.

  97. 97
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: Exactly.

  98. 98
    Woodrow/Asim says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’m mindful (would have to find the link) that Russian bots have been found to be posting BLM and related “anti-racism” material.

    This is clearly an effort to stir up resentment across a broad spectrum of American life, as we’ve seen w/Jill Stein, in a general destabilization effort. It just so happens that the pieces aligned to many White Nationalist, “Evangelical”, and “Gun Rights” groups (among others) are far better targets. Thanks to decades of avoiding critical analysis like the plague, their ability to tell truth from fiction is severely diminished. Moreover, they are driven by easily-twisted emotionally-based arguments that prove the rightness of their causes with limited need to detail/brainwash.

    These folks are pretty much the dream of the Communists in terms of how a population can be manipulated. And, in their semi-fellow travelers Mercer/Koch/etc. buying up more media, they are looking to make more sheeple out of Americans. They want to manipulate everything to keep us fighting, it just happens one part is far more suited, and willing, to play to their game directly.

    And the sad part is, much of the fight is stuff we do, desperately, need to hash out to become a More Perfect Union. We need to get out from under the hellscape we’ve created for many folks, and putting our head under the sand isn’t going to solve it.

    But we’ve also got to reclaim our media, our American Dreams. It must be a balance, and we need mature adults to do this.

    It’s too bad the people in power to make that balance are, at best, teens eager to burn it down and drag the pieces away for scrap.

  99. 99

    @Mnemosyne: Yes. I won’t say that I’ve been approached, but there have been situations that I removed myself from early on.

  100. 100
    Mike in NC says:

    Makes you wonder if Putin — with ties to the radical NRA — is somehow linked to one or more of the mass shootings that have occurred here in the past decade. Funding efforts by the GOP to water down all gun laws, at a minimum.

    By the way, the House Republicans are working on legislation that would make concealed carry legal nationwide; the permit would be looked at like a driver’s license — automatically accepted in every state.

  101. 101
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @Mike in NC: Put it this way, there is no NRA in Russia, and they have no problems taking a gun from Ivan’s cold dead hands.

  102. 102

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Also interesting that Dowd has connections to Iran-Contra. McFarlane has shown up too. And then we can go back to Joe McCarthy via Roy Cohn, one of Trump’s mentors. All the remaining slime of the Republican Party, concentrated in this presidency.

  103. 103
    WaterGirl says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: He really is going to drain the swamp! Just not in quite the way he intended.

  104. 104
    Miss Bianca says:

    Wow, Adam, this is a very informative (and depressing) read. You’re saying you really whipped this out in an hour?

  105. 105
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Bakos is a sharp civilian intel officer.

  106. 106
    TenguPhule says:

    I don’t see how this ends up with a lot of people not killed.

  107. 107
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: Give or take. Running down the links and the pics in twitter for posting took about 15 to 20 minutes. Remember, I’ve written portions of this s comments to do different posts over and over for the past 18 months. So I knew the material. I knew where to find the source citations for linking. And I knew how the pieces fit together. I even let it sit for 20 minutes and then re proofed it before hitting publish. And I’m sure I still missed a fat fingered typo or two!

  108. 108
    Emerald says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Sadly so. My sis is a Greenwald fan, watches Russia Today as, she firmly believes, the most credible source of news, and has ceased to call herself a Democrat because the Democrats are engaging in “McCarthism.”

    Dunno what’s McCarthyite about it as it has nothing to do with Communism. Plus, sis is a dedicated Berner, and he himself has said that he knew this was happening during the campaign. So apparently she’s moved beyond the Burn.

    But she’s convinced. We can’t even talk politics anymore so I really don’t know how deep it goes.

  109. 109
    Jeffro says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Even King is like, “The FAMILY?!? No way, man, there’s ‘scary’ and then there’s AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!! I ain’t touchin’ that!”

  110. 110
    Jeffro says:


    why are the Russians targeting Republicans for favorable treatment, as well as probably hacking for Republican Congressional candidates?

    Because they know Republicans are uniquely susceptible to inflammatory #FakeNews stories, that their leaders are uniquely ‘owned’ by a few far-right radical donors, and thus can be manipulated quite easily. It’s so obvious it’s easy to miss: Repubs are authoritarians/undemocratic, so naturally Putin would be able to know how to twist their dials.

    Why do Russians think Republican rule will be good for Russian?

    Republican ‘rule’ = chaos, Republican ‘rule’ = damage to the US, and that’s what they really want.

  111. 111

    Well, I wouldn’t call any of this a comfort. We are faced with trying to clean up Putin’s infestation of practically every sector of our society AND dealing with a Crazification factor-sized portion of the population that is misled at best and complicit at worst? Where do you start with that?

  112. 112
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ben Cisco (onboard the Defiant): Ablative armor, quantum torpedoes, and tri-cobalt devices.

    But I’m funny that way.

  113. 113
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @Jacel: Remember Jeff Sharlet’s book on The Family and its goal to target world leaders with RW christianist message.

  114. 114
    SFBayAreaGal says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Massive hologram machines so they can believe they are living their dreams.

  115. 115
    gene108 says:

    @Patricia Kayden:

    They may also vote in a child molester in Alabama so there’s that.

    They voted in Hastert, so not breakhard no new ground

  116. 116
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @RandomMonster: Sheeeeesh!

  117. 117
    gene108 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    @gene108: Because they’ve seen what has happened to the GOP since 2009. That it has become the party of white, conservative Christian, anti-immigrant Americans.This aligns with what Putin wants.

    Putin also wants to weaken America and he has picked Rwpublicans as a means to that end.

    This should be concerning to Republicans, if they had any scruples.

  118. 118
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Links to sources for Conyers’ ties to Soviets? This is not my field, and this is the first I’ve heard of this.

  119. 119
    J R in WV says:

    @tracy ratclif:

    A good friend of ours mother was with her USAF husband in Greece just after WWII ended. She fought off terrorists, most likely communists, who were climbing over the garden wall, with a M1911A pistol.

    They did not expect an American lady to be prepared to shoot back, but she was a southern girl raised in a hunting culture. And she had a butt-load of loaded magazines, so she could keep shooting. Saved her family, including my friend. Who is an Episcopal priest today, after being a professor of epidemiology at NC State. And a cross-country runner.

  120. 120
    Sherparick says:

    @Shantanu Saha: There is the famous picture of Dr. Stein sitting down to dinner with Putin & Mike Flynn. Glenn Greenwald has been an apologist for both Putin & Trump.

  121. 121
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: Conyers was affiliated with The National Lawyers Guild, and, at one time, a leader of it’s Detroit branch. The National Lawyers Guild was affiliated with the Communist Party USA. Additionally, Conyers was affiliated with/supportive of the World Peace Council, which thanks to the declassification of Soviet materials known as the Mitrokhin Archive we now know was under Kremlin/KGB control.

    This doesn’t make him a communist, either small or large C. Nor does it make him either a Kremlin stooge, dupe, or operative. But it does put him within the orbit of fellow travelers and compromised groups and organizations.

  122. 122
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Links to sources for Conyers’ ties to Soviets? This is not my field, and this is the first I’ve heard of this.@trollhattan: Rightwingwatch has had several posts on US fundys’ praise of Putin for his hardline anti-LGBT stance.

  123. 123
  124. 124

    If we’re talking about members of Congress with Russian/Soviet ties, let’s not forget Dana Rohrabacher.

  125. 125
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I’m not forgetting him. Unlike Conyers I think he is a useful idiot. With a lot of emphasis on idiot.

  126. 126
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: National Lawyers Guild connection:

    National Lawyers Guild connection to Communist Party USA:

    World Peace Council connection:

    World Peace Council connection to KGB:

    Took me under 90 seconds on Google to find all of that. The language before the colons are what I used as keywords. Perhaps you might consider adding keyword search capabilities to your Internet usage.

  127. 127
    Sherparick says:

    @Millard Filmore: As much as I luv BJ, Digby’s Hullabaloo, & LGM, & Economist View. I don’t depend on them for all my news. The Guardian US is excellent (please support), English Language Gernan news, Calculated Risk, McClatchy, & WaPo.

  128. 128
  129. 129
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ben Cisco (onboard the Defiant): I reckoned you’d get the reference.

    More seriously, it is going to be difficult. We now know we have a specific, solid demographic of Americans who are at best afactual and at worst actively, hostile to actual facts. We have politicians that are the same. And they have a dedicated funding stream. Additionally, we now know that norms, rules, and guidelines for good governance, government, and ethical behavior by elected and appointed officials are ineffective and need to be legislated into law and an independent agency needs to be created with the power to enforce them regardless of who is in power and which branch of the government the violations occur in.

  130. 130
    stinger says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thanks for the link; great article.

  131. 131
    Sherparick says:

    @germy: @Roger Moore: Not just the Republican pols, but the billionaire donor class & the super wealthy theocrats of The Family. Paul Ryan & they consider the true evil is the New Deal & the factions of the country who want a redistribution of wealth & who oppose a White Christian patriarchy. Paul Ryan himself is all about John Galt’s speech with an edit adding the prosperity Gospel.

  132. 132

    @Adam L Silverman: Thank you for the clear-headed approach.

  133. 133
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ben Cisco (onboard the Defiant): It is what it is. We’re also going to need a truth and reconciliation committee. Serious election reform in regard to how we do them. And our elections should be subject to an international team of monitors for a good long time.

    I’m not holding my breath.

  134. 134
    LosGatosCA says:

    Funny how immoral people and criminal enterprises just happen to find each other.

    Must be some CronyMatch.com.

    ReligiousGrifter looking for internationally experienced money launderers with spare cash. Light BDSM optional.

    Morally and fiscally bankrupt realtor willing to trade soul for muscle and connections to dirty money. References not required but hidden videotaping skills essential.

    Former Time ‘Man of the Year’ looking for email and social media hackers. Your hacked emails gets autographed copies of my Time ‘covers.’ NRA gun owners or accomplices welcome.

    Tired of having to sue clients to get paid? We’re looking for a corrupt campaign manager to work for free – skipping all the complicated lawsuits. Experience working in dirty campaigns within greater Russian sphere and hiding embezzled cash a Plus!

  135. 135
    Celticdragonchick says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Rod Dreher is really into Russian writing and religious thought right now, and he has been ‘Putin curious’

  136. 136
    Jacel says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I’ve read Sharlet’s “The Family” and the follow-up “C Street” books. What I’ve seen of his writing since has focused on other aspects of religion. I was wondering if anyone I missed had been keeping an eye on The Family’s activities and residents.

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